Agents of Moscow : the Hungarian Communist Party and the origins of socialist patriotism, 1941-1953

TitleAgents of Moscow : the Hungarian Communist Party and the origins of socialist patriotism, 1941-1953
Publication TypePublication review
AuthorsKrudy, Edward
Author(s) of reviewed materialMevius, Martin

Series: Oxford Historical Monographs XV.

PublisherOxford : Clarendon
ISSNISBN 0199274614
Review year


Full Text

Martin Mevius argues that the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) achieved and consolidated power in post-war Hungary by adopting a nationalist line in its propaganda and politics. The scope of the work includes regional international relations, Soviet influence in the region, a comparative perspective on the national policies of local communist parties, and the early stages in the development of the Cold War. Mevius’s consideration of the MKP’s national policy is set in the context of Soviet policy, which Mevius claims exploited nationalist sentiment in its propaganda; first in its struggle with Hitler’s Germany, then in its attempt to establish communist control over eastern Europe, and finally in its Cold War struggle with the Western Powers.

Mevius argues that the rise of nationalism in the communist parties of Europe was first encouraged by the Soviet Union when in 1943 it disbanded the Communist International – an organization intended to spread communist revolution around the world under the direction of Moscow – so that national communist parties would not be hampered in their struggle against Nazism through an association with a foreign power. Following the end of the war and the de facto Russian take over of Eastern Europe, Mevius says that the Soviet Union, with the notable intervention of Stalin, directed local communist parties to pursue a national line in their propaganda in order to increase their popularity with the population at large. This included the adoption of national colours, the lauding of national heroes, and even a playing down of the influence of Moscow.

Mevius notes that political expediency often defined the track that the national line should take. After 1948—49, once the MKP had secured power in Hungary, Moscow and the MKP were to define Hungary's national interest, as well as of other Eastern European countries, as lying in a strong alliance with Soviet Union. This was a move designed to tighten the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe in light of the Yugoslav breakaway and send a political message to the Western Powers in the unfolding of the Cold War.

By illuminating the national aspects of important events in the immediate post war years in Hungary, Mevius’s work also supplies an overview of the period through the prism of the MKP’s national policy. In this way the reader is introduced to interesting new aspects of events such as the war crimes trials, the elections of 1945 and 1947, the centenary of the 1848 revolution, and the deportations of Swabians and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Mevius also provides a limited comparative perspective on the national policies of communist parties in Poland, Rumania and Czecholslovakia. This enables Mevius to enter into a substantial treatment of the development of international relations between Hungary and its other communist neighbours as these were aggravated by mutually opposing national policies, especially in relation to national minority issues. As in the case of domestic policies the Soviet Union is presented as a constant and powerful – but not always omniscient – presence in the twists and turns of East European history during the period.

Mevius’s book, which draws on a wide range of works in English, Hungarian, Russian, German and French, as well as Russian and Hungarian archival sources, will be of benefit not only to students of the period but also to those seeking a wider understanding of contemporary Hungarian politics and international relations in the region.

Although Mevius does briefly consider the MKP’s relation to the Catholic Church in his handling of the 1949 show trial of Cardinal József Mindszenty, his work would have benefited from a fuller treatment of the MKP's policy towards religious organizations during the period. Likewise the treatment of the policies of other political parties is sometimes fleeting.